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U.S. states ask FCC to scrutinize Verizon's plan to buy Tracfone

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Feb 5 (Reuters) - The attorneys general of 16 U.S. statesand the District of Columbia on Friday urged the FederalCommunications Commission (FCC) to thoroughly investigateVerizon Communications Inc's proposed $6.25 billionacquisition of pre-paid mobile phones provider Tracfone andimpose conditions if it approves the deal.

Verizon said in September it would buy Tracfone, a unit ofMexican telecom company America Movil, in a cash andstock deal.

The state attorneys general said the FCC "should examinewhether the acquisition of TracFone by Verizon couldsignificantly reduce millions of Americans’ access to affordablecommunications services."

Th letter added, "it is imperative that the FCC thoroughlyvet the proposed transaction and impose specific conditions thatprotect and ensure the public interest before consideringapproval."

The state AGs are led by Virginia's Mark Herring and alsoinclude those of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the Districtof Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada,New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island,Vermont and Washington.

Tracfone is one of the largest providers oftelecommunications services under the government subsidy programknown as Lifeline with 1.7 million low-income subscribers in 43states and the District of Columbia, the state AGs' letter said,while Verizon offers Lifeline in parts of four states.

A Verizon spokesman said on Friday the company "willcontinue to offer Lifeline service through TracFone and furtherdevelop its core brands, products and distribution channels.Strengthening and growing TracFone will benefit value-consciousconsumers."

Tracfone, which serves about 21 million subscribers throughmore than 90,000 retail locations across the United States, saidlast year more than 13 million of its subscribers rely onVerizon’s network under an existing agreement. Verizon is thelargest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers.

"We urge the FCC to put the interest of the Americanconsumer before that of big business and request additionalinformation before allowing this acquisition to happen," saidMichigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis)